Within the previous two decades, balancing the economy and the environment has become a pressing and paramount concern. For instance, shortages of water, the essence of life, persist worldwide, affecting all manner of life and activity and as a society, we are compelled to act and not be short-sighted in our approach to conserve the very things that sustain us; of course, corporations and organisations can do more to mitigate their environmental footprint and accept the trade-offs but individuals too need to understand the significance of their actions. Through both active – engaging in activities that advance social goals – and passive means – avoiding socially harmful activities – this innate consideration for the consequences of one’s actions can help manage our limited resources effectively.
Individual prosperity and societal progression remain central to education’s aims; for example, encouraging students to volunteer for community amelioration programmes, such as sapling planting or garbage collection, fosters an association with their environment but should not substitute the public authorities’ maintenance role. Dumping of garbage onto the roadsides and then burning it, or removing those saplings later to widen the roads defeats the purpose of these drives since the wider context of such programmes is ignored. Additionally, schools aim to ‘inculcate’ various moral values in our children, controlling their behaviour and outlook and ‘instil’ the various rights and wrongs of our society, which is noble and optimistic but when presented with a different reality outside their schools and homes – to some degree, both repeatedly say, “this is how things are in the world” – children are left with no choice but follow the activities of their adults. For instance, when schools nobly preach “save water” and adults do not fix leakages in homes and find inventive ways to waste water, the child only follows the sermons until ‘reality’ takes control.
Another prevalent issue relates to waste, its disposal and management: the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, though well-intended, is a no more than a glorified cleanliness drive; the fact that a cleanliness drive is required to encourage positive attitudes towards social responsibility is laudable but equally embarrassing. This is not a symptom of a modern world, where an individual’s increasing self-concern is above all others, but represents our society’s inability to tackle these issues, leading the next generation to follow the same path as the preceding.
Social responsibility goes beyond token altruism and philanthropy; however, many companies’ corporate social responsibility is exactly that: mere tokenism and box-ticking. Unless there is any monetary profit attached, the two-point agenda of most companies – on developing the quality, the people and the processes, and the quantity, social impact – falls short of any positive impact. However, as a non-legally binding principle, good faith governs these social responsibility activities. Law has its pro bono programmes, as do the architecture, medicine, engineering, and other technological fields; the impact from such outreach programmes is both large and vital. So set aside your gadget-driven consumerist life for a few hours occasionally and feel better about improving your surroundings, remembering that every little contribution helps.